Contrary to popular belief, sheep are extremely intelligent animals capable of problem solving. Sheep have very good memories. They can remember at least 50 individual sheep and humans for years. They do this by using a similar neural process and part of the brain that humans use to remember.
Sheep have been shown to display emotions, some of which can be studied by observing the position of their ears. Like various other species including humans, sheep make different vocalisations to communicate different emotions. They also display and recognise emotion by facial expressions. Researchers at Cambridge University discovered that sheep prefer to go through doors with a picture of a smiling human over a door with a picture of an angry human.
Sheep are known to self-medicate when they have some illnesses. They will eat specific plants when ill that can cure them.
Sheep are precocial (highly independent from birth) and gregarious (like to be in a group).
Sheep are almost exclusively grazing herbivores. Because they tend to eat invasive plants, herds of sheep are often used for conservation grazing (which is the practice of using grazing animals to maintain the biodiversity of natural habitats).
Sheep not only flock together, but they may stick to the same grazing spot. These sheep can be “hefted,” which means they are taught to graze in the same general area (called a “heft”). Lambs usually learn the heft from their mother, so the practice continues even as new lambs are added to the flock.
The female sheep are called ewes, males are called rams, and castrated male sheep are called wethers. Young sheep are called lambs.
Over 40 breeds of sheep are there in US alone, and approximately 900 different breeds are found around the world.
The sound of a female sheep is called bleating and her offspring can identify its mother by the sound she makes. You might think all bleating sounds the same, but ewes recognize their lambs by their call when they wander too far away or get mixed in with the flock. There’s a slight difference between the sounds a sheep and a goat makes. While a sheep emits “Baa” sound, goat, on the other hand emits “Maa”.
Sheep are considered grazers and goats are mostly browsers.
Sheep belong to the family Bovidae (hollowed horn), the genus Ovis and the species Ovis Aries.
Sheep have poor eyesight but to compensate, they have been blessed with an excellent sense of hearing. However, sheep have a field of vision of around 300 degrees, allowing them to see behind themselves without having to turn their head.
Sheep do not have teeth in their upper front jaw. A sheep only has eight teeth, which it grows two a year. Because of a split in its upper lip, a sheep is able to pick the preferred leaves off the plant. A one-year old sheep is called a hogget. A two-year old sheep is called a two-tooth.
Sheep have two digits on their feet. The hooves grow like fingernails and need to be trimmed every few months to maintain normal conformation.
Sheep can be set up on their rumps for restraint during procedures such as foot trimming and shearing.
When sheep gives birth to an offspring, the process is called lambing. Ewes usually give birth to twins. After their birth, healthy lambs can stand immediately, within minutes, and join the flock. At birth on an average, weight of a lamb is between 5 to 8 pounds. The weaning age of sheep is generally between 2-3 months of age.
The tails of domesticated sheep are shortened shortly after birth. It is done to for the purpose of cleanliness.
Ewes cycle every 14-19 days during the breeding season. The duration of estrus is 24 to 36 hours. The time of ovulation is 24-30 from the beginning of estrus. The gestation (pregnancy length) period for ewes is 145-155 days. Depending on the breed, puberty is between 5 to 8 months of age for ewe lambs and 6 to 8 months for ram lambs. Depending on the breed, the minimum breeding age is between 8 to 10 months for ewe lambs.
One ram can service 30 to 35 ewes during a 60 day breeding season.
Approximately 8% of all rams (male sheep) exhibit an exclusive sexual preference for other rams and this preference is linked to a decreased volume of a particular brain region compared to “straight” rams.
The pasture carrying capacity for sheep is generally 5 to 6 ewes and lambs per acre.
On an average, a sheep consumes 2 to 4.5 pounds of food daily. Domestic sheep are extremely hardy animals and can survive on a diet consisting of only cellulose, starch or sugars as an energy source and a nitrogen source which need not be protein. In general, sheep feed mainly on grasses while in pastures and can be fed a wide variety of hays and oats.
Sheep prefer to walk into the wind and uphill, rather than downhill and with the wind.
Sheep cannot get up when they are lying on their back and need help to get up.
Of all the red meats, lamb meat has the lowest cholesterol level. Eating lamb is good for a healthy, balanced diet, as it has lots of nutrients in a relatively small amount of food, including iron, protein, folates, zinc and B vitamins. Fully trimmed raw lean lamb contains just 8% fat. Depending on the market, lambs are usually sold between 90-120 pounds.
Lamb is the oldest domesticated meat species in the world. The American Sheep Industry is the oldest livestock organization in the county. However, the average American eats less than one pound of lamb per year. Of that lamb that is consumed, half is consumed by the non-traditional ethic market. Of all the lamb consumed in the states, half is imported from Australia and New Zealand.
The term lamb is itself is a misconception. For many, lamb is synonymous to a baby or a very young animal, much like veal, but the animals are 6 to 8 months old and slaughtered at an average weight of 150 pounds.
Meat from a grown sheep is called “mutton.” An obstacle for the sheep industry is the reputation of mutton. Mutton, unlike lamb, is very mature, sometimes tough and even a gamy-flavored sheep meat. Lamb, on the other hand, is a younger animal known for its tender and succulent texture. A lot of the soldiers in World War II were fed mutton on a regular basis and from those experiences were soured completely from the ovine species.
Milk from Sheep is often used to make gourmet cheese. Milk from sheep have higher levels of fat, protein, riboflavin, calcium, zinc, niacin and thiamine than milk from goats and cows.
One of the most valuable sheep by-products is lanolin, a waterproof, fatty oil that is found naturally in sheep’s wool and used as a base for cosmetics and more.
Fat extracted from sheep, known as tallow, is used to make soap and candles.
To make 1 tennis racket, small intestines from 11 sheep are needed.
There are 150 yards (450 feet) of wool yarn in a baseball.
Before a lamb goes on a solid diet of grass, hay, and grain, it feeds solely on its mother’s milk for about 4 months.
A sheep has an average body temperature of about 102.5 ˚F.
The average respiration rate for sheep is 16 breaths per minute.
The life expectancy for sheep is between 6 to 11 years.
Sheep are susceptible to diseases such as parasites when they are mismanaged.
Like other ruminants, sheep too have a four chamber stomach that contains fermenting bacteria and protozoan that assist in breaking down their food. About one-third of a sheep’s life is spent in ruminating.
Domestic sheep can adapt themselves in a wide variety of habitats worldwide ranging from temperate mountain forests to desert conditions.
Domesticated sheep are allowed to graze green pastures during the summers, but during winters, they are fed with hay.
Sheep lives outdoors and can bear bad weather as their fleece keep them warm.
Sheep have a knack of huddling together and wherever one goes, others follow.
Dolly, a female sheep, was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. She was born on 5 July 1996.
A sheep has oil glands on face and toes while a goat does not. This is another way a ewe know her lamb by smell.
Wool, sheared from sheep, is the most commonly used fibre in the world. Sheep produce a thick woolly coat called a fleece to protect them from the weather, both hot and cold. An adult sheep produces one fleece per year, which is skillfully removed by a sheep shearer. Man learned how to spin wool in 3,500 B.C. Wool is the most sustainable fibre in the world. Wool was incredibly valuable before the invention of synthetic fibres and was the foundation of an economic boom in the 13th century. It's a natural product of the sheep’s life cycle and the welfare of sheep is improved by them being shorn. Wool is a stable carbon store that is produced by little more than solar powered grass and herbage.
When shearing, the wool that is cut off is washed to get dirt, insects, and straw that may have stuck to the sheep’s' fur out. The cleaned wool is then dyed to color it. The wool is combed and spun into yarn. One pound of wool can make ten miles of yarn.
Sheep are timid and nervous by nature; they are easily frightened, because of which they flock together.
As well as creating beautiful landscapes, sheep also support wildlife and plant biodiversity. Without sheep our grassland, and upland land in particularly, would become overtaken by scrub and coarse vegetation, becoming less valuable to many types of plants, small mammals and ground nesting birds, and at risk of environmental damage by wildfires.
In lowland areas sheep put lots of natural nutrients (poo) back into the ground that the growing of cereals and vegetables takes out.
George Washington raised sheep on his Mount Vernon Estates.
President Woodrow Wilson grazed sheep on the White House lawn.
Signs of heat in ewes include rapid tail movement in the presence of the male, nervousness, walking the fence lines, increase vocalization for the ram, decrease appetite and milk production and redden and swollen vulua (not easy to detect).
Copper is regularly used in the diet in sheep at about 8-11 parts per million. It may be toxic to sheep at 15-20 parts per million. There is a narrow difference between the amount of copper required and what will be toxic to the animal. A diet should never have copper level above 25 parts per million to be safe for most sheep.
Sheep factor into many religions and folklores around the world. The ram was the symbol of several ancient Egyptian gods. The Golden Fleece of the ram Chrysomallos is a part of the Greek mythological story of Jason the Argonaut. The ram (Aries) is the first sign of the zodiac, and the sheep is part of the Chinese calendar. Sheep play a big part Judaism, Christianity and Islam, since many major players in these religions were shepherds. Followers of Christianity are called the “flock,” with Christ known as the “Good Shepherd.”
References to counting sheep as a way to fall asleep can be found as early as the 1600s, in Miguel de Cervantes “Don Quixote.” While it is thought to be a largely ineffective way of falling asleep, “counting sheep” has been referenced so often in popular culture that sheep have become associated with sleep and insomnia.
A sheep was one of the first passengers in a hot air balloon.
It is possible for Sheep and Goat to interbreed, creating a Geep (or Shoat).
The reason for the size of a book can ultimately be traced back to the size of a sheep. In medieval times, sheepskin was used for bookmaking, and folding a hide in half three times produced a certain size of the book, which eventually became a standard even after we switched to paper.